Friday, August 28, 2015

Jewelry box - necklaces

Actually, I don't use a jewelry box for my personal necklaces.  Mostly because I don't have the space for a jewelry box in my bedroom in the winter when the house plants take over.

I use hooks instead.
These hooks have really cool paisley tops.  Found them years ago at World Market.
Are you surprised that most of my jewelry is beaded?  :)  Some of these are pieces that didn't sell that I appropriated for my own use.
circa 2012
Like this piece, which has a bakelite focal.  I horrified the vendor that I bought it from, by saying I was going to tear it apart.  I think that jinxed the piece, because it's never sold.  Even though it looks really stunning with a black dress or top.

circa 2005
Another rescue.  Actually, I never tried very hard to sell this.  I love the subtle shading of the flowers in the embroidery.  And the dragonfly raku pendant is one of the first raku pieces I ever bought.  I wear this pretty often with a purple top.  Just the right amount of dressy for me.

circa 2008
I made this piece while I was going to Ohio State for my MA in Gender and Women's Studies.  I wanted a turquoise necklace to go with something.  And I wanted a long necklace.  It had the extra bonus of being really annoying to wear in class.  The copper discs are pretty jingly.  One of my professors frowned at me whenever I wore it.  Well, she frowned at me other times, too.  But, the necklace contributed.

circa mid 1990s.
This kyanite piece is one of the first bead embroidery necklaces I made.  Really simple.  But that kyanite is just lovely in person.  Very sparkly.  I've lengthened the necklace a few times over the years, but the embroidery has held up well.

Paisley necklace, circa 2008
Another OSU piece.  AKA the most expensive bead I've ever purchased, the paisley bead.  I love the mix of garnets and czech glass on this.  And I still think I got a good deal on the bead.

Circa 2000
I rarely wear this necklace.  In fact, I'm had it in the "to be reworked" bin several times.  But it's such a hippy style, I can't tear it apart.  Back when I first started beading, I did a lot of off loom bead weaving.  This triangle is from then.  Totally funky.
Funkalicious, circa 2009
Also funky, this piece.  And this sucker is heavy!  Those are 18 mm turquoise beads and that's a big ole geode slice.  Another piece that's been in and out of the redo pile.  I'll probably end up tearing it apart, rescuing the wonderful tye-dye polymer cabochon.

Prayer necklace, 2010
My prayer necklace.  Love the buddha in this case.  And the lampwork.  This is another long necklace, like a rosary.  Love the pale blues of the amazonite in this.
circa 2005
Another favorite.  It reminds me of the ocean, the swirls in this lampwork.  The silver squiggle beads are so much fun.  And, apparently, need polishing.

Goddess necklace, 2012

Finally, my power necklace.  She reminds me that I have wings to fly.  The fossilized sand dollar is amazing.  And the sunstones in neckstrap are some of the prettiest I've ever seen.  Lots of internal fire.

I'd love to see photos of your favorite personal necklaces.  How about posting a photo on the BrisingBeads facebook page?  I'll send out a gift to the favorite at the end of the week!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Earring Display

Last Labor Day, I found a wire minnow keeper at a local flea market.  I loved the shape of it.  So structural, but so simple.

Since it's unlikely that I'll be fishing anytime soon, it needed another purpose in order to justify taking it home.

Viola, an earring display.

It took me a while, but I figured out what to do with it.  It's the perfect earring display.  Lots of room to spread out my earring collection.  Not a big dust collector because it's wire - really key.

It's about 2 1/2 feet tall.  Maybe a foot in diameter.  In the winter, I can tuck it in with the house plants that live on top of my dresser during the cold months.  

Mostly, I like it because it's unusual and functional.  Practical.

Now, if only I could figure out a cool way to display my post earrings...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mission Accomplished!

Yesterday I successfully passed my comprehensive exams and defended my dissertation prospectus.  Yee-haw!

I'm so happy and so relieved.  It's a big milestone for me, something I've been working towards for almost 10 years, through a BA, two Masters degrees, and doctorate studies.  The past 15 months have been challenging - surgery, FRENCH (I still have nightmares about this!), trying to write four exams while teaching four classes, my Dad's passing, a committee member (now ex-committee member) from hell, my supervising professor's heart attack - but, finally, success.

And now I get to write!  And research!  And teach.  And bead and felt.  My idea of the perfect life.

My dissertation committee members are great - some of the best in their respective fields.  I feel very very blessed.  And very supported.  

So excited to start working on my chosen topic: “What We Do About History Matters”: National Women’s History Month and the Marginalization of Women’s History

Monday, August 17, 2015

Felting Library

I have several bead embroidery books that I look at, on occasion.  My favorite?

Jamie Cloud Eakin's designs fit my embroidery sensibilities.  Simple.  Straight-forward.  She uses a lot more fringe than I do, though.

Now that I'm seriously exploring felting, I've started a felting library.  It fit the majority of my crafting books on one bookshelf, I really paired down my collection.

Just the basics, the books I have to have.
Actually, there's probably a few more that I'll get rid of, but for now, this works.  Within this collection, there's answers the felting basics.

Felting!  Design!  Glass!
If I had to recommend one good starting book, I'd say "Uniquely Felt."  It has all the basic information one needs.
Newest additions to the collection
I also like these.  Catherine O'Leary will be having a workshop near Kalamazoo this fall.  But, before I spent $450 on workshop fees, I decided to check out her book.  I like the book.  Doubtful I'll invest in the class.  (Hey, I'd rather spend money on roving.)

Beading design inspiration books.  And pieces of my favorite glass.  And a big amethyst geode.
Now that I'm a Pinterest-aholic, I don't reach for books as often when I need a design spark.  But some of these books are old favorites that I just can't part with.  Yet.  

While I'm finding I'm buying less and less of print books, for design ideas I need them.  I need that visual kick as a jumpstart sometimes.  Along with good clear directions.

What design books are your favorites?  Or, do you use Pinterest and youtube for directions?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fabric Necklaces

Oh, I am so excited about sharing these necklaces!  It's one of those moments where different design elements come together just beautifully.

Turquoise and fabric collar, June 2015
 I showed some fabric designs in this blog, in which I proposed pairing textile scraps with bead embroidery.  I love the results!

Close-up.  Love the effect of the bezel on this fabric scrap.
And of course, once I worked on one piece, I couldn't stop.
Big collar piece, July 2015.  Fabric piece is about 2" by 3"
See what you can accomplish while watching "Gilmore Girls" reruns on Netflix?  :)

I think the shisha mirrors set this textile off perfectly.  
Still need to add a strap to this, which I should be able to get to later this week.  I'll keep the strap really simple, using up the last of a strand of vintage red glass barrel beads.

I think this is my favorite.  Needs a name.  July 2015
The texture in the above piece is just lovely.  There's a nice mix of embroidery, color, subtle and shiny, and bead bumpiness.  
Close-up.  I think I'll add a bit of fringe to this piece, using simple black czech glass for the strap.
I like that the pieces are both very finished, yet rugged due to the imperfections in the fabric.  And they are very lightweight.

Mostly, they are really really fun to make.  I'm anxious to do more.  Maybe next time I'll even add some felting accents.

Monday, August 10, 2015


A few days ago, a package arrived from a mutual sister/friend.  Katlyn, of Mermade Magickal Arts, has been a long time supporter of my artwork.  She's actually the first person that insisted that I call myself an artist, something I will always be grateful for.  As a result, some of my favorite, some of my best designs have been inspired by pieces that Kat's asked me to work on.

Included in a wonderful, delicious box of incense that I received from Kat were two capsules of gemstones.  Amazing sparkly stones.  Stones I would never be able to afford but have always dreamed of.

Ethiopian Opals.  The largest is about the size of a penny.  The fire in all three is unreal.
I don't know if I adequately captured the fire in these stones.  Simply put: they are stunning.

Another angle.

Many years ago when I was traveling all over the country selling my jewelry designs, I met Earil at a festival.  A thunderstorm chased me into her booth.  We spent about an hour talking about gemstones, hematite especially.  I thought I knew lots of gemstone lore.  Earil knew much more.  I also discovered that Earil and Katlyn were long-time friends.

More goodies: Lapis (at top), Labrodorite round, and ammonite triangle.  Amazing.

Even then, Earil walked with a cane.  Diabetes had taken a toll on her body.  But she managed to walk over the festival site to my booth, spending another hour or so looking over my jewelry.

Earil passed away in June, surrounded by those who loved her.  Her struggle with diabetes made her very uncomfortable in the end.  Now, I imagine her laughing and moving around without pain, still sharing her wisdom. 

In turn, I'm sharing in Earil's love of beautiful gemstones, via Katlyn's generosity.

The fire in this labradorite cabochon is incredible.  The stone is bigger than a quarter.
I can't stop fondling these stones.  Just amazing.  And unexpected.  And a gift of love.

Ammonite cabochon.  Just yummy.
My plan is to make some special necklaces with these pieces that can be auctioned off to benefit someone/something in Earil's honor.  It feels like the right thing to do, to continue that generosity of spirit.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Global Business

During July and early August, I've been teaching an online class on International Human Rights.  As always, I've learned just as much if not more than my students.

Watching films like "Veiled Voices," "Half the Sky" and "A Path Appears," along with feature films (Beyond Borders, Hotel Rwanda) and doing lots of reading has been a good reminder for me that our world is very interconnected.

Lampwork drops from Canada -  Mandrel

In July, I sold six pieces of jewelry to a customer in Alaska.  As I wrote her a note about each piece, that's when I realized - I have a global business.  In those necklaces, there were components from all over the world.  A flower focal from India.  Lapis from Arizona (which probably came from somewhere else in the world).  Gemstones from all over the globe.
Rainforest Jasper - mined in the US and Africa
While my business runs out of my teeny-tiny house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I do indeed have a global business.

One of my primary selling venues is Etsy.  Through Etsy, I've sold jewelry pieces to customers in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and South Africa.  I've also sold pieces all over the US.

Lampwork beads from Isreal - PearlyKarpel
As I work more and more with fibers and textiles, I'm really adding to the international trade.  The base of most of my nuno scarves is vintage saris.  I bought large bundles of old, used saris over the winter.  Some are pretty tattered (though still perfect for scarves).  A few have stains, which could be dirt, could be blood.

Sari bundles.  Twenty two pounds = about 30 full length saris.
The stains (which I cut out, then wash all of the saris) make me wonder about the women who used these fabrics.  What were their lives like?  Where did they live?  Was this sari one of many (or a few) and was it a favorite?  Did the wearer have children?  Endless questions.  Questions I can only imagine and never have the answers to.

Sari ribbon, which creates a really cool effect in nuno felt.
I'm connected to these women that I'll never know.  Just like I'm connected to the vendors and sellers in different countries.  Connected through trade, but also connected through the challenges experienced as a result of our shared gender.

Hand-sewn scrap embroidery from India.  I tear these apart and use in belts and necklaces.
I ask my students not to compare the standards of living in one culture with the standards in another culture.  Mostly because this only points out the differences as negatives.  But also because the difference works in favor of privileging the American way of life over every other culture.  And, let's be realistic, America is not without its serious faults and oftentimes has no place in setting policy for the behavior of other countries.

100% wool yarn - Noro Kureyon (Japanese for crayon)
I like the sense of connection I feel with having a global business.  Using products from all sorts of vendors, especially small, women-owned/operated businesses, makes me feel a part of the larger world.  As if I can have an impact on providing for women just like me.  Women that maybe live in a teeny-tiny house, making beautiful things, and want the wonder of women's work to be respected and appreciated and valued, whether they're the seller or the buyer.

Honestly, I think it's these tiny global businesses that make the biggest impact on the world.  As we connect through our products, through the stories we share with each other as we exchange goods, we build a strong network of women artisans, women moving the world forward.

If you're looking for international women's organizations to get involved with, I recommend these two:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Feeling Creative

I took the whole month of July off from everything academic to work on BrisingBeads Designs business.  A luxury I have not had in about ten years.

And, I must say, I've never felt so creatively fulfilled and happy. 

Coleus in the garden.  Look at that pattern!
I've spent lots of time setting up fall and winter shows.  I think we'll have about 12-13 shows, which is probably all we can handle.  

I've also spent a considerable amount of time daydreaming about designs and trying out new ideas.  So much fun!

Echinacea.  We have TONS of this in the garden this year.  Tons.
Granted, I've lost sleep, what with all of the ideas.  Which makes me wonder, where do the ideas come from?  

I'm familiar with the things that inspire my creativity - the garden, myths, history, other artwork, nature, scenery.  I love that zing that happens when an idea occurs.  I love figuring out design challenges.  
Succulent collection
I love how one idea can expand into many.  My new found love of stencils has inspired all sorts of ideas.  Word scarves.  Using letters of the alphabet as a pattern in bead embroidery.  Or a pattern for pincushions.  Or hanging ornaments.  So many ideas.  So little time.

Amazing display of star gazer lilies.  Eight blooms on one stalk!
Do you think that the more you practice being creative, the easier it is for your creativity to flow?

I know that I try to practice creativity every day.  Even if it's being creative when I'm in the classroom or grading papers.  Because creativity is such a turn-on.  But I notice that some people really struggle with allowing creativity to be present in their life.

My students, for example.  Even though I always offer the option to do a creative assignment as a final project, most students stick with writing papers.  A necessary skill, yes.  But so is the development of creativity.  Yet, students are frequently at a loss on how to approach this.  Even when I show them examples of creative projects - videos, skits, poetry slams, etc.  Which means that maybe I need to be more creative in my presentation.  Hmmm.

Bee balm and daisies. 
I think the itch to stretch creatively is a big part of the attraction in jewelry design challenges.  As rewarding as it is to make something beautiful in a method that you're familiar with, it's even more exciting to create something from an element that you might be just slightly uncomfortable with.  And, maybe, that's where the cool ideas are - in that space that feels awkward, out-of-the-norm.

The older I get, the more I appreciate that awkward space.  Maybe it's because I've gained the confidence that I can work myself through the tight spots.  I recognize that I grow the most when I'm a bit off balance, as I'm forced to work with new ideas or new information.

Hosta corner.  AKA mosquito heaven.
I've long made notes and collages of ideas when I have these spurts.  Pinterest is my new best friend, making it oh so easy to keep track of new ideas.  'Cause that's the part of creativity that I love the most - how it connects us all.  No one has the only "best idea ever!" all on their own.  Chances are my idea will inspire your idea, and in turn inspire someone else's.  How exciting.

The trick - turning those ideas into gold by following through on them.  Or, passing them on.